Fedora Project Board Starts into 2010

Jan 08, 2010

The project chair has appointed Red Hat employee Colin Walters to the board. John Poelstra begins the year with open feedback to the board's work.

With Red Hat developer Colin Walters, the last open position on the Fedora board has been filled. John Poelstra, who was appointed to the board by chair Paul Frields in June of 2009, nevertheless regretted in his blog the less than enthusiastic participation of the board. Halfway through his term, he writes, he wanted to evaluate its accomplishments. The two big themes were the Fedora trademark (as we reported) and the question of Fedora's mission, vision and target audience. Poelstra opened the discussion on the board mailing list in October 2009 after the issues apparently emerged in a board meeting shortly before.

The question "What is Fedora?" resulted in a number of responses, but Poelstra was disappointed that only half the board participated in the discussion and their regular conference calls showed only minimal interest in the issue. He hoped for a stronger leadership from board: "This isn't to say these ideas and leadership can't come from others in Fedora. It is great when they do. Ultimately though, the Fedora Board is accountable for providing a vision for the future [...] It is what we have been appointed or elected to do."

The Fedora board membership consists of five elected and four appointed members recommended by Red Hat and decided upon by the chair, who also has veto power. The last election took place in December 2009, when Chris Tyler and Matt Domsch were reelected. Appointed member Christopher Aillon's term was also extended for another year at the same time.

Interestingly the project released a questionnaire with some fanfare at the time of the December elections to help voting members decide. In other ways the history of the board leaves the impression that Red Hat is continuing to recruit from within. Tyler and Aillon were both previous members. Eight of the nine board members are Red Hat coworkers, with Tyler, as Canadian professor, the only exception.

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  • Re

    Hi Paul,

    "Currently, six -- not eight -- out of nine members of the Board are Red Hat employees who are members of the Fedora community."

    Thank you for your correction (I indeed seem to have misread the backround of Matt Domsch and Josh Boyer). As well, your additional details of how the Fedora board works are most welcome.


  • Clarifications and corrections

    This article makes some mistakes and omissions about the background and current status of the Board's composition that readers might find enlightening. Furthermore, the article notes that "[i]n other ways the history of the board leaves the impression that Red Hat is continuing to recruit from within," which is confusing.

    Currently, six -- not eight -- out of nine members of the Board are Red Hat employees who are members of the Fedora community. Chris Tyler, Matt Domsch, and Josh Boyer are all volunteer members of the Fedora community. These facts are shown prominently in the Board's membership wiki page which the article references, but then fails to indicate properly:


    Five seats on the Board are elected by the community, and four seats are appointed by the Fedora Project Leader. (Before I assumed the project leadership, the split went the other way.) Roughly half these seats turn over after each release of Fedora, approximately every six months. Therefore it's inaccurate to say that Red Hat is stacking the Board with Red Hat employees. The Fedora Project Leader makes appointments to the Board to include people who can bring their backgrounds, skills, and experience to help lead Fedora, regardless of their place of employment.

    In the past, volunteer Fedora contributors have been appointed, just as the community sometimes elects Red Hat employee Fedora contributors. For instance, in the second previous election in June 2009, the Fedora community elected Red Hat employees to three Board seats -- Dennis Gilmore, Mike McGrath, and Tom Callaway -- while volunteer Josh Boyer was appointed. It is also interesting to note that the current project leader and Board chair is a former volunteer as well.

    The article also doesn't take into account the fact that many Red Hat employees are involved with upstream projects as core contributors. Core contributors to upstream projects like Colin Walters, a long time contributor to the GNOME Project, bring significant insight and experience to the Board that's more relevant to their qualifications than where they happen to draw a paycheck. These traits are important to moving forward on broad and difficult issues such as the topics of mission, vision and target audience that opened significantly before John Poelstra's thoughtful October 2009 email. Work on these topics is reflected in the public archives of our minutes, notes, and mailing list starting in January 2009.

    I encourage the author and editors to contact me and the Fedora Project Board if they are interested in any further clarifications or interviews. Thank you.
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